Tuesday, December 05, 2006

San Joaquin

The San Joaquin Matter Heats Up

In October of this year the Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield declared that an upcoming diocesan convention would seek, by a change in the diocesan constitution, to sever its relationship with the Episcopal Church. This was followed quickly by a letter from our new Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, stating that such an action would find Bishop Schofield in violation of his ordination and consecration vows and, further, that he has no legal or moral right to the assets of the diocese.

Bishop Schofield responded by claiming his vows as a priest were not to the Episcopal Church, but to the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In this, perhaps he misunderstood the actual vow in our Book of Common Prayer: "I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church." (BCP 1979, pg. 513)

Following the bishop's reinterpretation of his consecration vows, his diocese designated itself "the Faith, Order, and Practice of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as received by the Anglican Communion" at its December 1, 2006, convention. The Diocese of San Joaquin no longer alludes in its constitution to the Protestant Episcopal Church (its true founding designation). And we note that the Convention, as that part of its constitution, places all its future trust funds into the hands of the bishop by means of a legal concept called "Corporation Sole," which is the standard device in the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever else can be said about this imbroglio, money always seems to enter in.

Our Presiding Bishop quickly replied by "lamenting" the action taken, expressing solidarity with the loyal Episcopalians in the diocese, and hinting that the matter may well now go to the courts.

The San Joaquin action is merely part of a well documented pattern of action designed years ago by the right wing radicals of the church. The tactic employed is a variation of the old Chinese water torture: here a seceding parish, there a seceding diocese, as each action keeps up the momentum – momentum being a necessary feature of the organizing strategy. More importantly, each action stays true to the original design, this being that some future form of an Anglican Covenant will be designed which effectively removes the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. At that point, so the plan goes, San Joaquin, with other renegade dioceses will have not only have severed ties with the Episcopal Church (with the assets, mind you), but will also be ensconced in some parallel ecclesiastical organization (seemingly now to be headed by the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns) and will wait to sign on as the official Anglican Church in America.

This course of action has been done in full consultation with the radicals’ allies in Africa and other portions of the Global South. Indeed, it is upon their power and with their assurance that our radicals almost totally depend. But will Archbishop Peter Akinola and his friends be able to bully the rest of the Anglican Communion into such a course of action? There are some indications, including this report from the UK's Changing Attitude, that all may not be well between Archbishop Akinola and his American conspirators.

Our right wing radicals may want to have a close look at the Anglican Covenant Archbishop Akinola has submitted to the new Anglican Covenant Design Team. If he does not have sufficient power and influence to carry the day, our radicals are doomed. Why? Because they trust that the covenant finally adopted will be so severe and restrictive that the General Convention of the Episcopal Church will not be able to assent to it. If Archbishop Akinola cannot sway the rest of the Primates to adopt his model, then the dissenting Network dioceses will have little hope of seeing the Episcopal Church "expelled" from the Anglican Communion, and their cause will be lost.

We will certainly see more actions along the lines of San Joaquin's. The Diocese of Fort Worth has already taken steps in the direction of secession. The Diocese of Pittsburgh may wish to, but there is a little problem of a legal matter that has slowed their secessionist plans.

All of the above, of course, would have been a much less messy matter had not our radicals so desperately wanted to humiliate the Episcopal Church and leave with its assets. Nothing stops any of them from leaving tomorrow and founding a separate church. For all we know, Archbishop Rowan Williams might even recognize them as some parallel Anglicans. There are some of us who would not mind that solution. But these radicals will not take this course of action. Why? First, because they insist upon some public punishment (read "banishment") of the Episcopal Church. Second, because they are fixated on the assets which belong not to them, but – by the canons +John-David swore to uphold – to all the baptized of the Episcopal Church. Given that, it comes down to vengeance and greed. Not a pretty picture here.



Blogger Greg Griffith said...


Soldiers take an oath of loyalty and obedience when they join the military. But if they receieve an order from a superior that's so wildly outside the bounds of the common understanding of appropriate behavior for soldiers, they are duty-bound to defy it. +JDS was ordained under the 1928 BCP, not the 1979, and while it does include the phrase "Protestant Episcopal Church," it also requires him "to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same." Suffice it to say that same-sex blessings, non-celibate gay bishops, and a refusal to confirm Jesus Christ as unique, all qualify as "erroneous and strange."

What you folks need to understand is that this is open rebellion. Saying +JDS needs to cease and desist because the canons says so, is like the British crown telling the colonists they need to settle down because English law says they have to. Really, the sooner you folks understand that, the sooner we can wrap all of this up.

12/06/2006 9:12 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

Perhaps his ordination as a priest was 1928 but as a bishop it was 1979 -- which is the point in question.

12/06/2006 9:30 AM  
Blogger Thomas B. Woodward said...

There does come a point when we have to choose between obedience and renunciation -- as with those who believe they are deeply opposed to the official positions of The Episcopal Church. We either accept the discipline imposed through ordination of loyalty to The Episcopal Church (obedience) and work for change within the church or we renounce our loyalty and our membership. What seems to lack any sort of integrity is to say "my vows didn't mean what they seemed to have meant -- I get to decide because I am in touch with what God really wants for his church." Stand up guys obey or renounce, they do not whine and ask for a way out.
+John-David was a seminary classmate of mine and I have always admired his pastoral abilities as a bishop -- but he really needs to decide whether to obey the vows he took when consecrated or simply to leave the Episcopal Church behind. It's a little like a monk leaving a monastery -- you don't take the jeweled chalices with you because you disapprove of the abbot's admission policies. You submit to the rule of the order or you make other plans (without the monastery's property).

12/06/2006 10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a person who has lately come to God and chose the orthodoxy and traditionalism of the Episcopal Church as my way as if filled me with love and joy at finding God. I abhor the tension within our church but after much prayer and study must support the churches that wish to remain true to Anglican traditions and beliefs. I cannot understand the direction our BP is taking us and find her theology impossible to tolerate. I only wish TEC was not so "about Money" issues and more about salvation and Gods love for us all, not just those who worship "their way". BP Schori, get a life and stop listening to those money mongers in your cabinet!


12/06/2006 1:09 PM  

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